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Bloody Knob

Kehmen, Luxembourg

Battle Of The Bulge

 

By Terry D. Janes

 

In both my book, and on this website, I have written and presented much about the 80th Division's role in the Battle Of The Bulge. In promoting the famous 101st Airborne Division siege at Bastogne and the equally famous 4th Armored Division rescue of the Screaming Eagles at Bastogne, history has not been fair to Patton's Troubleshooters, the 80th Infantry Division and its attached units like the 702nd Tank Battalion Red Devils. First off, many forget that the 4th Armored Division was escorted every bloody mile by men of the 80th Division's 318th Regiment who protected the flank of the Mighty 4th while it trundled up the road to Bastogne. Many infantrymen died making that rescue possible, and it was infantrymen who made the initial contact with the 101st Airborne when the rescue party finally reached Bastogne.

 

Another thing that many historians neglect the 80th Division about, was the valiant effort it made in not only holding the German southern flank of the "Bulge", but actually punching through that flank to cut off supplies from Germany into the Bulge, which the German military desperately needed to sustain it's effort. Naturally, the German military facing the 80th Division put up a valiant and brilliantly fought battle to keep the Americans from encircling them and cutting off their supply lines. Many of these German troops were battle-hardened elite soldiers fresh from the Russian front, such as those in the Fuhrer Grenadier Brigade. It was tough, battle-wise enemy forces such as these that the young men of the 80th Division had to face, and defeat. Not only did they have to defeat this enemy, but they also had to defeat the coldest winter on record, while still wearing summer clothes and gear. The weather took nearly as big of a toll on the young Americans as the Germans did. Frost-bitten feet was the most common complaint. Some GI's froze to death in their foxholes, as did German soldiers, and to this day, occasional human remains are found in the area.

 

Many other things have also been found; things that speak volumes of what transpired on those Luxembourg mountains. Because of the brilliant work of my dear friend and colleague, Jean Muller, Historian of Luxembourg, many important pieces of history have come to light. Besides being a historian for his nation, and really being a unparalleled expert of the history of the Battle of the Bulge, Jean Muller is an actively working archaeologist who works constantly to bring pieces of his country's history to light. Jean and I have worked closely comparing documented history of mine to actual locations in Luxembourg to guide him in targeted archaeological searches for specific events and historical people. When he can, Jean gets the help of a circle of friends who are highly regarded experts as well. In a recent article on this website, I wrote about the battle at Kehmen, and the events surrounding it. Since then, many new things have come to light, and many new historical details are now known.

 

In that article, I'd mentioned the story of the destruction of the tank Rollin' Rhino by it's crew, to keep it out of enemy hands. I'd also mentioned the destruction of Sgt. Foster's tank, and that of S/Sgt. Mike Szymanski. Jean had continued working the sites of all three tanks, and located many more pieces from each of them. Along the way, Jean also located some newly discovered war-time photos.

 

Many years ago, I made the friendship of Judy Bezjak, when she first came to me with the incredibly heartbreaking story of what her family suffered in the war. Over the years, Judy has become a very dear friend of mine, and her sad family-mystery of what happened to her uncle has always stuck in my mind. The death of Tony Ruzich triggered events that led to the death of his brother, Rudy, and his father after that, and left this poor family utterly devastated.

 

One day, as Jean Muller and I were discussing the battle at Kehmen, and his most recent discoveries, and trying to reach a consensus of how these archaeological artifacts fit into what we knew from documentation, I thought about how close the area we were discussing was to where I believed that Judy's Uncle Tony had probably died. I told Jean about Judy, and how this 65 year old mystery of Tony's death was still a thorn in this family's side. I told him what I knew about what was known, and Jean asked me to put Judy in touch with him so he could get Tony's army serial number and personal details. Judy soon contacted Jean, and Jean began a search through his records of what artifacts had been found already, and where they had been found. Among the artifacts Jean had found, was a US canteen cup handle that sure enough had the army serial number of Tony Ruzich on it. Jean called me, and asked me to break the news to Judy and her mother, that we had found Tony's canteen cup handle, and by comparing that artifact to Jean's records, we could tell Judy exactly where Tony had been killed.

 

I cannot begin to tell you how great it felt to deliver this news to my friend on Easter Sunday, 2011. See, it had been on Christmas Day, 1944 that Tony Ruzich had been killed while his company was attacking Kehmen, Luxembourg. While I am not a particularly religious person, I do consider myself to be fairly spiritual, and so I could not help but be struck by the significance of those two dates. Judy felt the same, and it goes without saying that this discovery had a profound impact on Judy and her mother. Those questions that had gone unanswered for sixty-five years, were all now being answered. As things turned out, the answers were eventually to reach incredible proportions, and many more mysteries were solved as well.

 

The Ruined Church In Kehmen, Luxembourg

 

Kehmen In Winter

 

 

 

 

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